Detroit halting water shutoffs amid COVID-19 pandemic through 2022

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Tuesday that a moratorium on water shutoffs because of the COVID-19 crisis will be extended through 2022. 

Mayor Duggan and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed – the city’s former public health director and water access advocate - announced the initiative at a news conference at 3 p.m.

Water service restoration efforts were first announced on March 9 when the city said it will restore water to residents who have had their service cut off due to unpaid bills so they would have the ability to wash their hands. Detroit was hit extremely hard in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic

Detroit has already spent $22 million in payment assistance and major plumbing repairs for several thousand residents since the moratorium began. Since then, water service has also been restored at nearly 1,300 occupied homes.

And now, through several available funding sources, water service will be maintained for Detroiters who do not have the ability to pay through at least 2022. The funding is coming from state, federal and philanthropic funds. 

Households who can pay should continue to pay. The city says 92% of Detroit households regularly pay their water bills. 

"You not only support the delivering of clean water, safely collecting untreated sewage, and enabling the modernization of the 100-year-old system, you are also allowing those residents facing income insecurity during these tough times to have access to funding through DWSD and its community partners," the city said in a news release. 

The plan announced is not payment amnesty. Residential households will continue to generate their full water and sewer charges based on monthly usage, and the drainage charge, using current rates. 

Meanwhile, the city also announced it will be working to secure additional funding to prevent residential water service interruptions for nonpayment on a permanent basis. 

Duggan also announced his hopes for Detroit to become a leader at the state level and nationally for finding a permanent solution to prevent water shutoffs. 

“The federal government currently actively prevents gas and electric shutoffs of low-income Americans through the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP),” Mayor Duggan said.  “But there is no comparable program for water bills. We’re going to be part of a national coalition to support the efforts of Senator Gary Peters to extend utility shutoff support for water.”

Detroit has joined a coalition of cities from around the country, including Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Alexandria, Baltimore, Louisville, Sacramento and Washington, DC to create a policy platform on national water affordability initiatives focusing primarily on LIWAP (Low-Income Water Assistance Program) and include plumbing repairs.